Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A problem shared is a problem halved: a focus on men’s mental health

Remember that book called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? It was designed to illustrate the differences between the way men and women approach personal relationships, but the sentiment behind the book is also true when it comes to mental health. 

The Centre for Studies on Human Stress in Canada conducted some research into stress triggers. It’s no surprise that they were different for men and women.

Women were found to get stressed when faced with social rejection – it made them upset. For men, the stress triggers were performance related. They were given difficult tasks to complete which caused their heart rate and frustration levels to rise.

Men are predisposed to outperform. This can put them under immense pressure. While a woman’s response to stress is often an outpouring of emotion, this practice in itself goes someway to easing their stress. For men, on the other hand, there is usually no outward response to the stress triggers. Frustration is internalised, which may then manifest itself as anger or avoidance behaviour – such as isolating themselves or creating additional problems that are easier to deal with. There may also be a tendency to blame others for problems, in an attempt to transfer the burden of stress.

It’s good to talk

While talking about problems is second nature to most women, men may need more encouragement to talk. Many stress-causing issues at work or home cannot be resolved easily, but talking can help. Sometimes it is as simple as changing perceptions about a situation, rather than changing the situation itself – and the best way to do this is by speaking to another person about what you’re going through.

Active body, healthy mind

Exercise is closely linked with better mental health and stress control. A study back in 2012 by the University of Glasgow found people who exercise outdoors experience half the mental health risks of those who exercise inside. An effective way for a man to improve his mental health, especially during times of stress, is to spend more time outdoors. It doesn’t matter what exercise, but 20 minutes of outdoor exertion does wonders for mental wellbeing.

Put a name to it

It’s always easier to cope with what’s happening around us when we can identify how it makes us feel. Some men find it beneficial to put a name to their emotions, so they become ‘real’ rather than abstract. This could be: "The important meeting is just two days away; I’m feeling anxious.” Or “My co-worker took credit for my proposal; I’m feeling angry.” By naming our emotions, we make it easier to park them and move on. We can free ourselves and concentrate on finding a solution to help us overcome the stress.

Mindfulness practices have been found to be beneficial when it comes to engendering positive mental health in men. You can read more about men’s mindfulness here >

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